Last week, we discussed ways to improve the Green Bay Packers defense. This week, we take a look at the other side of the ball. There were moments where the offense looked refreshed under first-year head coach and play-caller Matt LaFleur. But they also had moments where it appeared the offense needs to make some major upgrades. Here is our outlook on how the Green Bay Packers offense can improve this off-season.
Ways to Improve the Green Bay Packers Offense
The final regular-season rankings for NFL offenses illustrates that the Green Bay Packers offense has areas to improve.
The Packers passing offense finished 17th in passing. That is actually eight spots lower from where they finished in 2018. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers finished the season ranked 11th overall in the NFL. He had 26 touchdown passes and only four interceptions. His top target once again was Davante Adams. Adams finished the season ranked 18th in receiving. He finished the season with 83 catches for 997 receiving yards with five touchdown receptions. Those numbers would have been more but because of a toe injury, he only played in 12 regular-season games.
The Green Bay Packers offense did see improvement in their rushing attack. In 2018, they finished ranked 22nd overall. This season they finished ranked 15th. A lot of that had to do with the play of running back Aaron Jones.
Jones, a former fifth-round pick, finished the season with 1,084 rushing yards with 16 rushing touchdowns. He also played a big part in the Packers passing attack. He caught 49 passes for 474 receiving yards with three touchdown receptions. LaFleur stated when he got the Packers head coaching job he would put an emphasis on the running game. A promise that he kept.
Rodgers, Adams, and Jones were the driving force in the Green Bay Packers offense. But there lies the problem. The rest of the supporting cast, in most cases, failed to step up. That is something that Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst will need to improve this off-season.
Help Wanted at Wide Receiver
With Adams, the Green Bay Packers offense has one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. But after Adams, there are some major questions. Those questions will need to be addressed by Gutekunst and his scouting staff this off-season.
It appears they found a contributor in Allen Lazard. Lazard was elevated from the Packers practice squad early this season and he took advantage of his opportunity. This season, he caught 35 passes for 477 yards with three touchdown receptions. Along with contributing, he also gained the confidence of Rodgers. Earning Rodgers confidence is a major plus when playing in the Green Bay Packers offense.
The rest of the Packers wide receivers had its struggles. The trio of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison, and Jake Kumerow combined for 72 receptions for 958 receiving yards with five touchdown receptions.
Out of the three, Valdes-Scantling arguably was the most disappointing. The Packers expected the second-year wide receiver to make a jump, but he failed to do so. It is highly unlikely that they are ready to give up on the burner. Still, he will need to start to produce and show that he is capable of being their down the field threat they had hoped he would be.
Allison battled issues with dropping the ball throughout the season. While he was a solid blocker, it looks like it won’t be enough to be brought back next season. Kumerow has a place on this roster, but most likely it is as a fifth or sixth wide receiver. His best chance of making the roster is on special teams. This season, he played a lot on special teams and did a solid job.
The Packers will return Equanimeous St Brown next season. The second-year wideout from Notre Dame missed this season due to injury. He is a very unproven talent. It isn’t a lock that he will be a contributor in the Green Bay Packers offense next season.
Finding Help in Free Agency or in the NFL Draft, or Both
While some Packers “experts” believe that the Packers are fine at wide receiver, we don’t that thinking is correct. Gutekunst will need to find help somewhere.
It might turn out to be a good thing that the Packers are in need of a talented wide receiver. The wide receiver position is loaded in this year’s NFL draft. So if the Packers don’t use their first-round pick on one, they could still grab one in the second or third round and that player could still be a contributor next season.
Even if the Packers select a wide receiver high in this year’s draft, they still could add one in free agency. However, the depth of free-agent wide receivers isn’t nearly as deep as the wide receivers in the draft.
Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com has Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green ranked the highest of the free-agent wide receivers. While Green has had a stellar career, he battled injuries throughout last season. Along with the injuries, he is 32 years old, an age when wide receivers start to decline. But if healthy, and pairing up with Rodgers, he could be what the Packers need at wide receiver.
Emmanuel Sanders is another 32-year-old free agent wide receiver. He was traded during this past season from the Denver Broncos to the San Francisco 49ers. While Green is a tall outside wide receiver, Sanders makes his bones playing in the slot. The Packers missed Randall Cobb this past season, with his ability to play in the slot. Sanders could be that type of pass catcher that the Green Bay Packers offense needs.
No matter what Gutekunst decides, he can’t stand pat with the group of wide receivers the Packers currently have. An upgrade is necessary for the Packers wide receivers group.
Getting Stable at Tight End
It appears that Jimmy Graham‘s tenure as a Packer is coming to an end. He still has one year left on his deal, but it is highly doubtful he will return to the Green Bay Packers offense next season.
The once electric tight end isn’t what he once was. Graham no longer has the downfield speed he once has. Because of his lack of speed, he isn’t able to stretch the middle of the field. This past season, he had 38 catches for 447 receiving yards with three touchdown receptions. In his younger years, he was a major weapon in the red zone. But he no longer is a threat in the red zone. The time has come to part ways with Graham.
The Packers spent a third-round pick last year on Jace Sternberger. While he missed part of the season with an injury, he did see some time late in the season. He didn’t register a reception until the playoffs. In the Packers two playoff games, he caught three passes for 15 yards and one touchdown. He also showed a willingness to block, something that wasn’t expected. He will be a major part of the Packers tight end rotation next season.
Filling out the Packers tight end rotation was veteran Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan. Lewis brought much needed veteran leadership to the Green Bay Packers offense. Lewis isn’t the pass-catching threat he once was. He caught just 15 passes for 156 yards with one touchdown. But he is still a very capable blocker, something the Packers need. While he will be 36 next season, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Gutekunst brought him back. He understands his role and can help with his blocking ability.
Tonyan has become a fan favorite in Green Bay. But he dealt with some injuries and only caught 10 passes this season. While he has a lot of athletic ability, the Packers need more from him.
Draft or Sign a Free Agent
Picking Sternberger in the third round in last year’s draft was a start. But the Packers need more talent at tight end. Gutekunst will need to determine if they should sign a free agent or draft a tight end high in the draft.
The Packers have tried and failed when signing a free agent tight end in recent history. It will be interesting if they give it another shot this off-season. Tight ends Hunter Henry and Austin Hooper are both free agents. Both are very capable players who could help out immediately if signed by the Packers. But they might get offered quite a bit when free agency hits. Gutekunst will need to determine if they are worth big money deals.
Walterfootball.com has Vanderbilt’s Jared Pinkney and Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam ranked as the top two tight ends in this year’s draft. Pinkey is the higher-rated of the two and could go anywhere from the first-third round. Okwuegbunam should go anywhere from the second-fourth. Both are bigger players and have the speed to stretch the middle of the field. With the draft being so deep at wide receiver, the tight end position might be the first position that the Packers look to fill.
Making the Offense the Focus
There are other questions that will need to be answered this off-season for the Green Bay Packers offense. The biggest being what to do with Bryan Bulaga.
Bulaga had a very strong season. While he did deal with injuries, he was still able start a full 16 game schedule. Something he has done only one other time in his career. Injuries will always be a concern with Bulaga. But even with that, he proved he is still a very capable starting tackle. If they are able to sign him to a one or even two year deal, it might be worth the risk. He proved this season that he is still capable of contributing. If they do re-sign him, they will also need to find a quality backup. With Bulaga, injuries will always occur and they will need to be protected not if, but when he deals with another injury.
But the primary focus of Gutekunst will be finding more explosive pass catchers for Rodgers. No matter what Rodgers says, the window for him is starting to get smaller. To help him out, the Packers will need to surround him with more talent.